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Changes coming to Court Management Services

Wednesday, March 19, 2014    

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THE Government has approved a number of proposed changes for implementation over the next two years which are expected to reform the present Court Management Services (CMS), the entity set up in 2010 to provide efficient and effective administrative services to the courts of Jamaica.

Making the disclosure during last Friday's sitting of the Senate Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding said the important proposed changes which were approved by Cabinet "are intended to solve the problems which have impeded the ability of the CMS to carry out its mandate effectively".

Explaining the rationale for the reforms, the justice minister said with the CMS having become fully operational since 2011, several weaknesses have been identified in its operational structure which are inhibiting the fulfilment of its role.

"A major weakness which became apparent soon after its creation was a lack of certainty as to the parameters within which the entity was expected to operate. This has been exacerbated by the absence of a strategic framework establishing the lines of accountability and responsibility within which the CMS is to operate and the scope of its authority in executing its mandate," Golding told the Senate.

Following a review of the various models of court administration governance existing in Canada, United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago, New Zealand, Australia and the Republic of Ireland by a Canadian team of experts and consultations with local justice sector stakeholders, the model adopted in Ireland was seen as the most suitable for consideration by Jamaica. Senator Golding said a model was developed based on that structure to suit Jamaica's context.

"This model has been approved by Cabinet for implementation. The administrative aspects are slated to be introduced in the 2014/15 fiscal year, assuming the required budgetary allocations are made and the legislative aspects are to be drafted. I therefore expect that these reforms will be introduced over a two-year period," he told the Senate.

As it stands the existing CMS is to be restyled and repurposed as the Court Administration Division within the Office of the Chief Justice and will be the administrative arm of the Jamaican judiciary while the Court Administration Division will be independent of the Executive and will take directions from the Chief Justice.

An advisory board of the Court Administration Division will be created to advise the Chief Justice on matters relating to the management and operation of the court system. Members of the judiciary will comprise the majority of the Advisory Board and the other members will be comprised of representatives of the Bar Associations, a representative of court users and an expert in the field of commerce, finance or administration.

In addition, Senator Golding said the new arrangements will see the creation of three new legal posts, Executive Legal Officer to the Chief Justice, Chief Resident Magistrate and Executive Legal Officer to the Chief Resident Magistrate.

"The proposed changes will add significant value to the work and effectiveness of the judiciary, will reinforce judicial independence which is a fundamental underpinning of our system of democratic governance under the rule of law and will enhance the quality of justice being administered to the Jamaican people," the justice minister pointed out.

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